A thigh injury suffered in the opening day draw with Watford ruled Paterson out for three months, but he delighted the home faithful by netting his side’s second goal four minutes from time, heading home after Jay Rodriguez rattled the crossbar.
Top scorer Rodriguez gave Burnley the advantage at half-time, clinically dispatching a penalty after Doncaster’s Sam Hird was adjudged to have fouled Chris McCann.
Defender Hird completed a miserable afternoon by putting through his own net in stoppage time.
The result means Burnley move to within three points of the top six at the season’s halfway point, while Doncaster, who hit the post through Billy Sharp before half-time, remain in the relegation zone two points from safety.
Winger Junior Stanislas came into the Burnley starting XI as Marvin Bartley dropped to the bench.
El Hadji Diouf, fresh from signing an 18-month contract extension at the Keepmoat Stadium, returned to the Doncaster side following a spell on the sidelines with a hamstring injury, while defender Pascal Chimbonda recovered sufficiently from his hip problem to earn a place among the substitutes.
Doncaster started on the front foot, but a cleverly worked Burnley corner in the ninth minute ended with Rovers defender Herita Ilunga clearing Rodriguez’s effort off the line.
Eddie Howe’s side started to bombard the visitors’ area and Rodriguez’s header was off target from Ben Mee’s long throw before James O’Connor got in the way of a goalbound Stanislas shot.
Rovers weathered the storm and James Coppinger might have given them the lead with half an hour gone, only to hesitate on receipt of Diouf’s pass before firing over from the edge of the box.
Ten minutes before the interval Hird and Clarets skipper McCann came together in the area and, after some hesitation, referee David Webb pointed to the spot.
Rodriguez made no mistake from 12 yards, drilling straight down the middle for his 12th goal of the season.
Doncaster almost found an instant response as a measured move ended with Sharp’s glancing header from Brian Stock’s cross striking the post.
Gary Woods was sharply out of his goal to stop Paterson doubling Burnley’s lead, while Rovers midfielder Giles Barnes should have ensured matters were all square at the break when he side-footed wide from close range.
Woods was forced to extinguish trouble of his own making seven minutes into the second half as Rodriguez pounced to dispossess Simon Gillet from the goalkeeper’s poor clearance and drew a sharp save with a well hit drive.
Coppinger unleashed a dipping volley in the 25th minute that a backpedalling Lee Grant superbly tipped around the post.
As Doncaster pushed for an equaliser, gaps were starting to appear for Burnley on the break and Ross Wallace drilled into the side netting after been driven wide by Habib Beye.
The second goal arrived in the 84th minute as Beye’s headed clearance was thundered against the crossbar by Rodriguez and, with Woods prone, Paterson reacted quickest to nod into an empty net.
James Hayter replaced a frustrated Diouf and almost reduced the arrears in the closing minutes, but David Edgar hacked his close-range effort to safety.
Doncaster’s misery was complete in stoppage when a searching Kieran Trippier cross was headed back across goal by Rodriguez and Hird put through his own goal.